"This is a damned unpleasant affair," he said.
"It is," was the grim reply.
"You know it's the Blucher?"
"No doubt about that."
"What on earth are we up to?" Crawshay continued, in a dissatisfied tone. "We haven't even replied to her signals."
"It appears to me," Jocelyn Thew pronounced irritably, "that we are going to try and get away. I never heard of such lunacy. They can blow us to pieces if they want to."
"I think," he protested, "that some one ought to remonstrate with the captain. Look, there's another shell coming! Damned ugly things!"
There was another puff of white smoke, and this time the projectile fell within a steamer's length of them, sending a great fountain of water into the air. "They are giving us plenty of warning," Jocelyn Thew observed coolly. "I suppose we shall get the next one amidships."
"I find it most upsetting," his companion declared. "I am going down to the cabin to get my lifebelt."
He turned away. Presently there was another line of signals, more shots, some across the bows of the steamer, some right over her, a few aft. Nevertheless, the City of Boston stood on her course, and the distance between the two steamers gradually widened. Katharine, who had come up on deck, stood by Jocelyn Thew's side.
"Is this really the way that they shoot," she asked, "or aren't they trying to hit us?"
"They are not trying," he told her. "If they were, every shot they fired at this range would be sufficient to send us to the bottom."
"Why aren't they trying?" she persisted.
"There's a reason for that, which I can't at the moment explain," was the gloomy reply. "They want to capture us, not sink us! What I can't understand, though, is how the captain here found that out."
"How is it that you are so well-informed?" Katharine asked curiously.
"You had better not enquire, Miss Beverley. It's just as well not to know too much of these things. Here's Mr. Crawshay," he added. "Perhaps he'll tell you."
Crawshay appeared, hugging his lifebelt, on which he seated himself gingerly.
"Can't imagine what the captain's up to," he complained. "A chap who understands those little flags has just told me that they've threatened to blow us to pieces if we go on.—Here comes another shell!" he groaned. "Two to one they've got us this time!—Ugh!"
They all ducked to avoid a shower of spray. When they stood upright again, Katharine studied the newcomer for a minute critically. There was a certain air of strain about most of the passengers. Even Jocelyn Thew's firm hand had trembled, a moment ago, as he had lowered his glasses. Crawshay, seated upon his lifebelt, with a mackintosh buttoned around him, his eyeglass firmly adjusted, his mouth querulous, was not exactly an impressive-looking object. Yet she wondered.
"Give me your hand," she asked suddenly.
He obeyed at once. The fingers were cool and firm.
"Why do you pretend to be afraid?" she demanded. "You aren't in the least."
"Amateur theatricals," he replied tersely, "coupled with a certain amount of self-control. I am a cool-tempered fellow at most times.—Jove, this one's meant for us, I believe!"
They all ducked instinctively. The shell, however, fell short. Crawshay measured the distance between the two steamers with his eyes.
"Dashed if I don't believe we're giving them the slip!" he exclaimed. "I wonder why in thunder they're letting us off like this! The captain must have known something."
Jocelyn Thew turned around and looked reflectively at the speaker. For a single moment Crawshay's muscles tingled with the apprehension of danger. There was a smouldering light in the other's eyes, such a light as might gleam in the tiger's eyes before his spring. Crawshay's hand slipped to his hip pocket. So for a moment they remained. Then Jocelyn Thew shrugged his shoulders, and the tense moment was past.
"There seems to be some one on this ship," he said quietly, "who knows more than is good for him."
The City of Boston passed through the danger zone in safety, and dropped anchor in the Mersey only a few hours later than the time of her expected arrival. Towards the close of a somewhat uproarious dinner, during which many bottles of champagne were emptied to various toasts, Captain Jones quite unexpectedly entered the saloon, and, waving his hand in response to the cheers which greeted him, made his way to his usual table, from which he addressed the little company.
"Ladies and gentlemen," he said, "I have an announcement to make to which I beg you will listen with patience. Both the English and the American police, whether with reason or not, as we may presently determine, have come to the conclusion that a large number of very important documents, collected in America by the agents of a foreign power, have been smuggled across the Atlantic upon this ship, in the hope that they may eventually reach Germany. In a quarter of an hour's time, a number of plainclothes policemen will be on board. I am going to ask you, as loyal British and American subjects, to subject yourselves, without resistance or complaint, to any search which they may choose to make. I may add that my own person, luggage and cabin will be the first object of their attention." The captain, having delivered his address, left the saloon again amidst a little buzz of voices. There had probably never been a voyage across the Atlantic in which a matter of forty passengers had been treated to so many rumours and whispers of strange happenings. Sam West got up and spoke a few words, counselling the ready assent of every one there to submit to anything that was thought necessary. He briefly commented upon their unexplained but fortuitous escape from the raider, and heaped congratulations upon their captain. Very soon after he had resumed his seat, the shrill whistle of a tug alongside indicated the arrival of visitors. A steward passed back and forth amongst the passengers with a universal request—all were asked to repair to their staterooms. Twenty-seven exceedingly alert-looking men thereupon commenced their task.
Seated upon the couch in her room, with a cup of coffee by her side and a cigarette between her lips, Katharine listened to the conversation which passed in the opposite room, the one which had been tenanted by Phillips. For some reason, the end of the voyage, instead of bringing her the relief which she had expected, had only increased her nervous excitement. She was filled with an extraordinary prescience of some coming crisis. She found herself trembling as she listened to Doctor Gant's harsh voice and the smooth accents of his interlocutor.
"Well, that completes our search of your belongings, Doctor Gant," the latter's voice observed. "Now I want to ask a few questions with reference to the Mr. Phillips who I understand died the day before yesterday under your charge." "That is so," Doctor Gant agreed. "He had no luggage, as we only made up our minds to undertake the journey with him at the last moment. The few oddments he used on the voyage, we burned."
"And the body, I understand,—"
"You can examine it at once, if you will," the doctor interrupted. "We have purposely left the coffin lid only partly screwed down. I should like to say, however, that before arranging the deceased for burial, I asked the ship's doctor to make an examination with me of the coffin and the garments which I used. He signed the certificate, and he will be ready to answer any questions."
"That seems entirely satisfactory," the detective confessed. "I will just have the coffin lid off for a few moments, and will see the doctor before I leave the ship."
The men left the room together and were absent some ten minutes. Presently the detective returned to Katharine's room, and with him came Crawshay. Katharine had discarded the nurse's costume which she had usually worn on board ship, and was wearing the black tailor-made suit in which she had expected to land. In the dim light, her pallor and nervous condition almost startled Crawshay.
"You will forgive my intrusion," he said. "I have just been explaining your presence here to Mr. Brightman, the detective, and I don't think he will trouble you for more than a few minutes."
"Please treat me exactly as the others," she begged.
The search proceeded for a few moments in silence. Then the detective looked up from the dressing case which he was examining. In his hand he held the envelope addressed to Mrs. Phillips.
"Do you mind telling me what this is, Miss Beverley?" he asked.
"It is a roll of bills," she replied, "that belonged to Mr. Phillips. I promised to see them handed over to his wife."
Brightman glanced at the address and balanced the envelope on the palm of his hand.
"It is against the law," he told her, "for a passenger to be the bearer of any sealed letter."
Katharine shrugged her shoulders.
"I am very sorry," she said, "but the packet which you have did not come from America at all. It was sealed up on board this ship at the time when I accepted the charge of its delivery. There is no letter or communication of any sort inside."
"You will not object," the detective enquired, "to my opening it?"
She frowned impatiently.
"I can assure you," she repeated, "that I saw the notes put inside an empty envelope. Mr. Crawshay will tell you that my word is to be relied upon."
"Implicitly, Miss Beverley," Crawshay pronounced emphatically, "but under the circumstances I think no harm would be done if you allowed our friend just to glance inside. The notes can easily be sealed up in another envelope."
"Just as you like," she acquiesced coolly. "You will find nothing but bills there."
Brightman tore open the envelope and glanced inside as though he did not intend further to disturb it. Suddenly his face changed. He shook out the contents upon the little table. They all three looked at the pile of papers with varying expressions. In Katharine's face there was nothing but blank bewilderment, in Crawshay's something of horror, in the detective's a faint gleam of triumph. He pressed his finger down on the heading of the first sheet of paper.
"I am not much of a German scholar," he observed. "How do you translate that, Mr. Crawshay?"
Crawshay was silent for several moments. Then in a perfectly mechanical tone he read out the heading:
"'List of our agents in New York and district who may be absolutely trusted for any enterprise.'"
There was another dead silence, a silence, on Katharine's part, of complete mental paralysis. Crawshay's face had lost all its smooth petulance. He was like a man who had received a blow.
"But I don't understand," Katharine faltered at last. "That packet has not been out of my possession, and I saw the notes put into it."
"By whom?" Crawshay demanded.
"By Mr. Phillips," she declared steadfastly, "by Mr. Phillips and Doctor Gant together."
The detective turned the envelope over in his hand.
"The bills seem to have disappeared," he observed.
"They were in that envelope," Katharine persisted. "I have never seen those papers before in my life."
Brightman's face remained immovable. One by one he slipped the papers back into the envelope, thrust them into his breast pocket, and, turning round, locked the door.
"You must forgive me if the rest of our investigations may seem unnecessarily severe, Miss Beverley," he said.
Katharine sank back upon the sofa. She was utterly bewildered by the events of the last few minutes. The search of her belongings was now being conducted with ruthless persistence. Her head was buried in her hands. She did not even glance at the contents of her trunk, which were now overflowing the room. Suddenly she was conscious of another pause in the proceedings, a half-spoken exclamation from the detective. She looked up. From within the folds of an evening gown he had withdrawn a small, official-looking dispatch box of black tin, tied with red tape, and with great seals hanging from either end.
"What is this?" he asked.
Katharine stared at it with wide-open eyes.
"I have never seen it before," she declared.
There was another painful, significant silence. Crawshay bent forward and examined the seals through his glass.
"This," he announced presently, "is the official seal of a neutral Embassy. You see how the packet is addressed?"
"I see," the detective admitted, "but, considering the way in which we have found it, you are not suggesting, I hope, that we should not open it?"
"Opened it certainly must be," Crawshay admitted, "but not by us in this manner. When you have finished your search, I should be glad if you will bring both packets with you to the captain's room."
Brightman silently resumed his labours. Nothing further, however, was found. The two men stood up together.
"Miss Beverley," Brightman began gravely,—
Crawshay laid his hand upon the man's arm.
"Wait for a moment," he begged. "I wish to have a few words with you outside. We shall be back before long, Miss Beverley."
The two men disappeared. Katharine, with a sinking of the heart, heard the key turn on the outside of her stateroom. She watched the lock slip into its place with an indescribable sense of humiliation. She had been guilty—of what?
She lost count of time, but it was certain that only a few minutes could have passed before a strange thing happened. The sight of that lock, which seemed somehow to shut her off from the world of reasonable, honest men and women, had fascinated her. She was sitting watching it, her chin resting upon her hands, something of the horror still in her eyes, when without sound, or any visible explanation, she saw it glide back to its place. The door was opened and closed. Jocelyn Thew was standing in her stateroom.
"You?" she exclaimed.
"I am not disappointed in you, I am sure," he said softly. "You will keep still. You will not say a word. I have risked the whole success of a great enterprise to come and say these few words to you. I am ashamed and sorry for what you are suffering, but I want to tell you this. Nothing serious will happen—nothing serious can happen to you. Everything is not as it seems. Will you believe that? Look at me. Will you believe that?"
She raised her eyes. Once more there was that change in his face which had seemed so wonderful to her. The blue of his eyes was soft, his mouth almost tremulous. She answered him almost as though mesmerised.
"I will believe it," she promised.
As silently and mysteriously as he had come, he turned and left her. She watched the latch. She saw the lock creep silently once more into its place. She heard no movement outside, but Jocelyn Thew had gone.
During the few remaining minutes of her solitude, Katharine felt a curious change in the atmosphere of the little disordered stateroom, in her own dazed and bruised feelings. She seemed somehow to be playing a part in a little drama which had nothing to do with real life. All her fears had vanished. She rose from her place, smoothed her disordered hair carefully, bathed her temples with eau-de-cologne, adjusted her hat and veil, and, turning on the reading lamp, opened a novel. She actually managed to read a couple of pages before there was a knock at the door and the two men reappeared. She laid down her book and greeted them quite coolly.
"Well, have you come to pronounce sentence upon me?" she asked.
"Our authority scarcely goes so far," Brightman replied. "I am going on shore now, Miss Beverley, to fetch the consul of the country to which this packet is addressed. It will be opened in his presence. In the meantime, Mr. Crawshay has given his parole for you. You will therefore be free of the ship, but it will be, I am afraid, my duty to ask you to come with me to the police station for a further examination, on my return."
"I am sure I shall like to come very much," she said sweetly, "but if you go on asking me questions forever, I am afraid you won't come any nearer solving the problem of how that box got into my trunk, or how those bills got changed into those queer-looking little slips of papers. However, that of course is your affair."
The detective departed with a stiff bow. Crawshay, however, lingered.
"Aren't you going with your friend?" she asked him.
He ignored the question.
"Miss Beverley," he said, "you will forgive me saying that I find the present position exceedingly painful."
"Why?" she demanded. "I don't see how you are suffering by it."
"It was at my instigation," he went on, "that suspicion was first directed against your travelling companions. I am convinced that the first idea was to get these documents off the ship upon the person of Phillips, if alive, or in his coffin if dead. The instigators of this abominable conspiracy have taken fright and have made you their victim. Certainly," he went on, "it was a shrewd idea. I myself suggested to Brightman that your things might remain undisturbed. But for the finding of that envelope, your trunk would certainly not have been opened. You see the position I have placed myself in. I am driven to ask you a question. Did you know of the presence of those papers and dispatch box amongst your belongings?"
"I had no idea of it," she answered fervently.
He drew a little breath of relief.
"You realise, of course," he went on, "that there is only one man who could have placed them there?"
"And who is that?" she enquired.
"And why do you single him out?"
"Because," Crawshay told her patiently, "we had evidence in America to show that he was working with our enemies. It is true that he has not been associated to any extent with the German espionage system in America, but he has been well-known always as a reckless adventurer, ready to sell his life in any doubtful cause, so long as it promised excitement and profit. It was known to us that he had come into touch with a certain man in Washington who has been looking after the interests of his country in America. It was to shadow Jocelyn Thew that I came on this steamer. His friends cleverly fooled Hobson and me, and landed us in Chicago too late, as they thought, to catch the boat. That is why I made that somewhat melodramatic journey after you on the seaplane. Do please consider this matter reasonably, Miss Beverley. It was perfectly easy for him to slip across and place these things in your luggage as soon as he found that his original scheme was likely to go wrong. You were the one person on the steamer whom he reckoned would be safe from suspicion. You were part of his plot from the very first, and no more than that."
"I cannot believe this," she said slowly.
Crawshay's face darkened.
"It is no business of mine, Miss Beverley," he declared, "but if you will forgive my saying so, you must be infatuated by this man. The evidence is perfectly clear. You are a prominent citizeness of a great country, and you have been made an accessory to an act of treason against that country. Yet, with plain facts in my hands, it seems impossible for me to shake your faith in this person. What is the reason of it? What hold had he upon you that he should have induced you to leave your work and your home and betray your country?"
"He has no hold upon me at all," she replied indignantly. "Since you are so persistent, I will tell you the truth. I once saw him do a splendid thing, a deed which saved me from great unhappiness."
"There we have it then at last!" Crawshay exclaimed eagerly. "You are under obligations to him."
"I certainly am," she acknowledged.
"And he has taken advantage of it," Crawshay continued, "to make you his tool."
"Whatever he has done," she replied, "rests between Jocelyn Thew and me. I am not in the least disposed to excuse myself or to beg for mercy from you. If you represent the law, directly or indirectly, I do not ask for any favours. I shall be perfectly ready to go to your police station whenever I am sent for." There was a knock at the door. They both turned around. In reply to Katharine's mechanical "Come in," Jocelyn Thew entered.
"I beg your pardon," he said, "was I mistaken or did I hear my name?"
"We were speaking of you," Crawshay admitted, turning towards him, "but I do not think that either Miss Beverley or I have anything to say to you at the moment."
"That's rather a pity," was the cool reply, "because you may not see me again. I was looking for Miss Beverley, in fact, to say good-by. We are docking in half an hour, and those who have been searched can go on shore, if they like to leave their hold luggage. As I have been searched twice in the most thorough and effective fashion, I have my pass out."
"You mean that you are going away altogether to-night?" Katharine exclaimed.
"Only so far as the Adelphi," he told her. "I have some friends to see who live near Liverpool, so I shall probably stay there for two or three days."
"I was coming to look for you on deck presently," Crawshay intervened, "but if your departure is so imminent, I will say what I have to say to you here."
"That would seem advisable," Jocelyn Thew agreed.
"I think it is only right that you should know, sir," Crawshay continued, "that a very serious position has arisen here in which Miss Beverley is unfortunately involved. Incriminating documents have been found in her luggage, placed there obviously by some unscrupulous person, who was in search of a safe hiding-place."
"Is this true?" Jocelyn Thew asked, looking past Crawshay to Katharine.
"I am afraid that it is," she assented.
"The person who placed them there," Crawshay proceeded, the anger gathering in his tone, "may believe for the present that he has been able to escape from his dangerous position by this dastardly attempt to incriminate a woman. He may, on the other hand, find that his immunity will last but a very short time."
Jocelyn Thew nodded in calm acquiescence.
"I am at a loss," he said, "to account for your somewhat melodramatic tone, but I really do not think that Miss Beverley has very much to fear."
"There I agree with you," Crawshay declared. "She has not so much to fear as the criminal who is responsible for what has happened. He may think that he has escaped by saddling his crime upon a woman's shoulders. On the other hand, he may discover that this attempt, which only aggravates his position, will turn out to be futile."
Jocelyn Thew held out his hand towards Katharine.
"Really," he said, "the tone of this conversation takes one back to the atmosphere of the dear old Drury Lane melodrama. I feel, somehow or other," he went on, looking into Katharine's eyes, "that our friend here has cast me for the part of the villain and you for the injured heroine. I am wondering whether I dare ask you for a farewell greeting?"
Katharine did not hesitate for a moment. Her shapely, ringless hand was grasped firmly by his brown, lean fingers. She felt the pressure of a signet ring, the slight tightening of his grip as he leaned a little towards her. Again she was conscious of that feeling of exuberant life and complete confidence which had transformed her whole and humiliating situation so short a time ago.
"The injured heroine is always forgiving," she declared,—"even though she may have nothing to forgive. Good-by, Mr. Thew, and good fortune to you!"
The morning—grey, slightly wet—broke upon Liverpool docks, the ugliest place in the ugliest city of Europe. A thin stream of people descended at irregular intervals down the gangway from the City of Boston to the dock, and disappeared in various directions. Amongst the first came a melancholy little procession—a coffin carried by two ship's stewards, with Doctor Gant in solitary attendance behind. After the passengers came a sprinkling of the ship's officers, all very smart and in a great hurry. Then there was a pause of several hours. About midday, two men—Brightman and a stranger—came down the covered way into the dock and boarded the steamer. They were shown at once into the captain's room, where Crawshay and Captain Jones were awaiting them.
"This," Brightman said, introducing his companion, "is Mr. Andelsen. I was fortunate enough to find him on the point of leaving for London."
Mr. Andelsen shook hands and accepted a chair. Upon the table in front of the captain was the sealed dispatch box. Crawshay had a suggestion to make.
"I think," he said, "that Miss Beverley should be here herself when this is opened."
"I have no objection," Brightman assented.
The captain rang for his steward and sent down a message. Mr. Andelsen—a tall, thin man, dressed in a sombre grey suit—handled the seals for a moment, looked at the address of the box, and shook his head.
"I could not take upon myself the responsibility of opening this," he declared. "It is certainly the seal of the Embassy of my country, but the box is addressed specifically to our Foreign Secretary at the Capital."
"We quite appreciate that," Crawshay admitted. "The captain, I believe, is not asking you to break it. We simply wish you to be present while we do so, in order to prove that no disrespect is intended to your country, and in order that you yourself may have an opportunity of taking a note of the contents."
"So long as it is understood that I am only here as a witness," the consul acquiesced, a little doubtfully, "I am quite willing to remain."
Katharine was presently ushered in. She was dressed for landing in a smart tailor-made suit, and her appearance was entirely cheerful. Crawshay stepped forward and handed her a chair.
"Dear me," she said, "this all seems very formidable! Am I under arrest or anything?"
"The captain is about to open the dispatch box found in your trunk, Miss Beverley," Crawshay explained, "in the presence of Mr. Andelsen here, who represents the country whose seals are attached. I have already expressed my opinion that this box has been surreptitiously placed amongst your belongings, and although, of course, our chief object was to gain possession of it, I regret very much the position in which you are placed."
"You are very kind, Mr. Crawshay," she rejoined, without much feeling. "It is certainly a fact that I never saw the box before it was dragged out of my trunk yesterday."
The captain broke the seals, untied the tape, and with a chisel and hammer knocked the top off the box. They all, with the exception of Katharine, gathered around him breathlessly as he shook out the contents on to the table. They were all sharers in the same shock of surprise as the neatly folded packets of ordinary writing paper were one by one disclosed. Crawshay seized one and dragged it to the light. The captain kept on picking them up and throwing them down again. Brightman mechanically followed his example.
"The whole thing's a bluff!" Crawshay exclaimed. "These sheets of paper are all blank! There isn't any trace even of invisible ink."
The consul rose to his feet with a heavy frown.
"This is a very obvious practical joke," he said angrily. "It seems a pity that I should have been compelled to miss my train to town."
"A practical joke!" the captain repeated. "If it is I'm damned if I understand the point of it!"
"Give me the envelope which held the notes," Crawshay demanded.
The captain unlocked his safe and produced it. Crawshay glanced through some of the documents hastily.
"These are all bogus, too!" he exclaimed. "There are no such streets as this in New York—no such names. The whole thing's a sell!"
"But what the—what in thunder does it all mean?" the captain demanded, pulling himself up as he glanced towards Katharine.
Brightman, who had scarcely spoken a word, leaned across the table.
"Probably," he said drily, "it means that some one a little cleverer than us has got away with the real stuff whilst we played around with this rubbish."
"But how?" Crawshay expostulated. "Not a soul has left this ship who hasn't been searched to the skin. The luggage in the hold is going out trunk by trunk, after every cubic foot has been ransacked. We have had a guard at every gangway since we were docked."
There was a knock at the door. The ship's doctor entered. He glanced at the little company and hesitated.
"I beg your pardon, Captain," he said, "could I have a word with you?"
The captain moved towards the threshold.
"Ship's business, Doctor?"
"It's just a queer idea of mine about these papers," the doctor confessed. "It's perhaps scarcely worth mentioning—"
"You'd better come in and tell us about it," the captain insisted. "That's what we're all talking about at the present moment."
Crawshay closed the door behind the newcomer, whose manner was still to some extent apologetic.
"It's really rather a mad idea," the latter began, "and I understand you found a part of what you were searching for, at any rate. But you know the man Phillips, who'd been operated upon for appendicitis—your patient, Miss Beverley, who died during the voyage?"
"What about him?" the captain demanded.
"Just one thing," the Doctor continued. "There was no doubt whatever that he had been operated upon for appendicitis, there was no doubt about the complications, there was no doubt about his death. I helped Doctor Gant—who seemed a very reasonable person, and who is known to me as one of the physicians at Miss Beverley's hospital—in various small details, and at his request I went over the clothing of the dead man and even knocked the coffin to see that it hadn't a double bottom. Doctor Gant appeared to welcome investigation in every shape and form, and yet, now that it's all over, there is one curious thing which rather bothers me."
"Get on with it, man," the captain admonished. "Can't you see that we're all in a fever about this business?"
The doctor produced from his pocket a small strip of very fine quality bandaging.
"It's just this," he explained. "They left this fragment of bandaging in the stateroom. Phillips was bound up with it around the wound, as was quite natural, but it isn't ordinary stuff, you see. It's made double like a tube, with silk inside. He must have had a dozen yards of this around his leg and side, which of course was not disturbed. It's a horrible idea to a layman, I know," he went on, turning apologetically to Katharine,—
"Captain, will you send at once for the steward," Crawshay interrupted, "who carried the coffin out?"
The captain sent a message to the lower deck. Katharine was leaning a little forward, intensely interested.
"Perhaps, Miss Beverley, you can throw some light upon this?" the former enquired—"in your capacity as nurse, I mean."
She shook her head.
"I am sorry that I cannot," she replied. "As a matter of fact, I was never allowed to touch the bandages. Doctor Gant did all that himself."
"Have you ever seen any bandaging of this sort?" Brightman asked, showing her the fragment which he had taken from the doctor's fingers.
Crawshay drew a little breath between his teeth. He was on the point of speech when a steward knocked at the door. The captain called him in.
"Harrison," he asked, "were you one of the stewards who was looking after Doctor Gant?"
"Yes, sir," the man replied.
"You helped to carry the coffin out, didn't you?"
"That's so, sir. We were off at six o'clock this morning."
"Was there a hearse waiting?"
The steward shook his head.
"There was a big motor car outside, sir. We put the coffin in that and the doctor drove off with it—said he was to take it down to the place where the man had lived, for burial."
"Do you know where that was?"
"No idea, sir."
The captain glanced towards Brightman.
"Do you want to ask the man any questions?"
"Questions? No, sir!" the detective replied bitterly. "We've been done—that's all there is about it. Never mind, they've only got six hours' start. We'll have that car traced, and—"
"Does any one know what time Mr. Jocelyn Thew left the steamer?" Crawshay interrupted.
"He got away last night," the steward replied. "There were three or four of them went up to the Adelphi to sleep. Some of them came back for their baggage this morning, but I haven't seen Mr. Jocelyn Thew."
Katharine rose to her feet. Her tone and expression were impenetrable.
"Am I still suspect?" she asked.
Crawshay glanced at Brightman, who shook his head.
"There is no charge against you. Miss Beverley," he admitted stiffly. "So far as I am concerned, you are at liberty to leave the ship whenever you please."
She held out her hand to the captain.
"I can't make up my mind, Captain," she said, smiling at him delightfully, "as to what sort of a voyage I have had on this steamer, but I do congratulate you on that escape from the raider. Good-by!"
Crawshay walked with her along the deserted deck as far as the gangway.
"I am afraid I cannot offer my escort any further, Miss Beverley," he regretted. "I must have a little conversation with Brightman here."
"Of course," she answered. "I quite understand. Perhaps we may meet in London. It seems a pity, doesn't it," she went on sympathetically, "that that wonderful voyage of yours was taken for nothing? Some one on this ship has been very clever indeed."
"Some one has," Crawshay replied bitterly, "and you and I both know who it is, Miss Beverley. But," he went on, holding the gangway railing as she turned to descend, "it's only the first part of the game that's over. Our friend has won on the sea, but I have an idea that we shall have him on land. We shall have him yet, and we'll catch him red-handed if I have anything to do with it. Will you wish us luck?"
She turned and looked at him. Her lips parted as though she were about to speak. Instead she broke into a little laugh, and, turning away, descended the gangway. From the dock she looked up again at Crawshay.
"Do come and look me up if you are in town," she begged. "I shall stay at Claridge's, and I shall be interested to hear how you get on."
The City of Boston docked in Liverpool on Sunday night. On Tuesday, at five o'clock in the afternoon, Crawshay, who had been waiting at Euston Station for a quarter of an hour or so, almost dragged Brightman out of the long train which drew slowly into the station.
"We'll take a taxi somewhere," the former said. "It's the safest place to talk in. Any other luggage?"
"Only the bag I'm carrying," the detective replied. "I have got some more stuff coming up, if you want me to keep on this job."
"I think I shall," Crawshay told him. "I want to hear how you got on. I gathered from your first telegram that you were on the track. Where did you mean to stay?"
"I've no choice."
"The Savoy, then," Crawshay decided. "Jocelyn Thew is staying there, and you may be able to keep an eye on him. Here we are. Taxi?—Savoy!—Now, Brightman."
"You don't want me to make a long story of it, sir," Brightman observed, as they drove off.
"Just the things that count, that's all."
"Well, we got on the track of the car all right," the detective began, "and traced it to a small village called Frisby, the other side of Chester, and to the house of a Mrs. Phillips, a woman in poor circumstances who had just removed from Liverpool. She was the widow, all right. She showed us letters, and plenty of them, from her husband in New York. It appears that Gant alone had brought the coffin, which was left at the cemetery, and the funeral will have taken place t his afternoon. Mrs. Phillips was full of his praises, and it seems that he had paid her over the whole of the money you spoke about—five thousand dollars."
"There was no chicanery so far, then," Crawshay observed. "The man was dead, of course?"
"Absolutely," Brightman declared, "and his death seems to have taken place exactly according to the certificate. Here comes the point, however. With the aid of the local police and the doctor whom we called in, the bandage around the wound was removed. We found in its place a perfectly fresh one, bought in Liverpool, not in the least resembling the silk-lined fragment which the ship's doctor brought into the cabin."
Crawshay looked gloomily out of the window.
"Well, I imagine that that settles the question of how the papers got into England," he sighed.
"Our job, I suppose," the detective reminded him, "is to see that they don't get out again."
"In a sense," Brightman continued, "that is a toughish job, isn't it, because whoever has them now can make as many copies as he chooses, and one set would be certain to get through."
"As against that," Crawshay explained, "some of the most valuable documents are signed letters, of which only the originals would be worth anything. There are also some exceedingly complicated diagrams of New York harbours, a plan of all the battleships in existence and projected, a wonderful submarine destroyer, and a new heavy gun. These things are very complicated, and to carry conviction must be in the original. Besides that," he added, dropping his voice, "there is the one most important thing of all, but of which as yet no one has spoken, and of which I dare scarcely speak even to you."
"Is it in the shape of a drawing?" Brightman asked.
"It is not," was the whispered reply. "It is a letter, written by the greatest man in one of the greatest countries in the world, to the greatest personage in Europe. There is a secret reward offered of half a million dollars for the return of that letter alone."
"The affair seems worth looking into," Brightman remarked, stroking his little black moustache.
"I can promise you that the governments on both sides will pay handsomely," Crawshay assured him. "I have had my chance but let it slip. You know I had my training at Scotland Yard, but out in the States I found that I simply had to forget all that I knew. Their methods are entirely different from ours, and you see what a failure I have made of it. I have let them get away with the papers under my very nose."
"I can't see that you were very much to blame, Mr. Crawshay," the detective observed. "It was a unique trick, and very cleverly worked out."
They had turned off the main thoroughfare and were now brought to a standstill in the courtyard leading to the Savoy. Suddenly Crawshay gripped his companion by the arm and directed his attention to a man who was buying some roses in the florist's shop.
"You see that man?" he said. "Watch him carefully. I'll tell you why when we get inside."
The eyes of Mr. Brightman and Jocelyn Thew met over the gorgeous cluster of red roses which the girl was in the act of removing from the window, and from that moment the struggle which was to come assumed a different character. Brightman's thin mouth seemed to have tightened until the line of red had almost disappeared. There was a flush upon his sallow cheeks. The hand which was gripping his walking stick went white about the knickles. But in Jocelyn Thew there was no change save a little added glitter in the eyes. There was nothing else to indicate that the recognition was mutual.
"Well, what about him?" Brightman asked, as their taxicab moved on. "What does he call himself?"
"Mr. Jocelyn Thew is his name," Crawshay replied. "He was on the steamer. It is he, and not Gant, whom we have to make for. The plot which we have to unravel, which Gant and Phillips, and, unwittingly, Miss Beverley carried through, was of his scheming."
"Mr. Jocelyn Thew," the detective repeated as they passed through the swing doors. "So that is how he calls himself now!"
"You know him?"
"Know him!" Brightman repeated bitterly. "The last time I saw him I could have sworn that I had him booked for Sing Sing prison. He got out of it, as he always has done. Some one else paid. It was the greatest failure I had when I was in the States. So he is in this thing, is he?"
"He is not only very much in it," Crawshay replied, "but he is the brains of the whole expedition. He is the man to whom Gant delivered those documents some time last night."
They found two easy-chairs in the smoking room and ordered cocktails. Mr. Brightman sat forward in his chair. He was one of those men whose individuality seems to rise to any call made upon it. He was indifferently dressed, by no means good-looking, and he had started life as a policeman. Just now, however, he seemed to sink quite naturally into his surroundings. Nothing about his appearance seemed worthy of note except the determination of his very dogged mouth.
"I accepted your commission a short time ago, Mr. Crawshay," he said, "with the interest which one always feels in Government business of a remunerative character. I tell you now that I would have taken it on eagerly if there had not been a penny hanging to it. I can't tell you exactly why I feel so bitterly about him, but if I can really get my hands on to the man who calls himself Jocelyn Thew, it will be one of the happiest days of my life."
"You really know something about him, then? He really is a bad lot?" Crawshay asked eagerly.
"The worst that ever breathed," Brightman declared, "the bravest, coolest, best-bred scoundrel who ever mocked the guardians of the law. Mind you, I am not saying that he hasn't done other things. He has travelled and fought in many countries, but when he comes back to civilisation he can't rest. The world has to hear of him. Things move in New York underground. The moment he takes rooms at the Carlton-Ritz, things happen in a way that they have never happened before, and we know that there's genius at the back of it all, and Jocelyn Thew smiles in our faces. I tell you that if anything could have kept me in America, although I very much prefer Liverpool, the chance of laying my hands on this man would have done it."
Through the swing doors, almost as Brightman had concluded his speech, came Jocelyn Thew. He was dressed in light tweeds, carefully fashioned by an English tailor. His tie and collar, his grey Homburg hat with its black band, his beautifully polished and not too new brown shoes, were exactly according to the decrees of Bond Street. He seemed to be making his way to the bar, but at the sight of them he paused and strolled across the room towards them.
"Getting your land legs, Mr. Crawshay?" he enquired.
"Pretty well, thank you. You finished your business in Liverpool quickly, I see."
"More urgent business brought me to London. I dined and spent last evening, by-the-by, with Doctor Gant—the doctor who was in attendance upon that poor fellow who died on the way over."
"A very ingenious gentleman," Crawshay observed drily.
"Ah! you appreciate that, do you?" Jocelyn Thew replied, with a faint smile. "You should go and cultivate his acquaintance. He is staying over at the Regent Palace Hotel."
"One doesn't always attach oneself to the wrong person, Mr. Thew."
"Even the stupidest people in the world," Jocelyn Thew agreed, "can scarcely make mistakes all the time, can they? By the way," he went on, turning towards the detective, "is it my fancy or have I not had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Brightman in America? I fancied so when I saw him board the steamer in the Mersey on Sunday, but it did not fall to my lot to receive the benefit of his offices."
"I was just telling Mr. Crawshay that I had had the pleasure of professional dealings with you," Brightman said drily. "I was also lamenting the fact that they had not ended according to my desires."
"Mr. Brightman was always ambitious," the newcomer observed, with gentle satire. "He is, I am sure, a most persevering and intelligent member of his profession, but he flies high."
"I am much obliged for your commendation," Brightman said bluntly. "As regards professions, I was just explaining to Mr. Crawshay that you were almost at the top of the tree in yours."
"If you have discovered my profession," Jocelyn Thew replied, "you have succeeded where my dearest friends have failed. Pray do not make a secret of it, Mr. Brightman."
"I have heard you called an adventurer," was the prompt reply.
"It is a term with which I will not quarrel," Jocelyn declared. "I certainly am one of those who appreciate adventures, who have no pleasure in sitting down in these grey-walled, fog-hung cities, and crawling about with one's nose on the pavements like a dog following an unclean smell. No, that has not been my life. I have sought fortune in most quarters of the globe, sometimes found it and sometimes lost it, sometimes with one weapon in my hand and sometimes with another. So perhaps you are right, Mr. Brightman, when you call me an adventurer."
"These very uncomfortable times," Crawshay remarked, "rather limit the sphere in which one may look for stirring events."
"You are wrong, believe me," Jocelyn Thew replied earnestly. "The stories of the Arabian Nights would seem tame, if one had the power of seeing what goes on around us in the most unsuspected places. But we are digressing. Mr. Brightman and I were speaking together. It occurred to me, from what he said, that he has not quite the right idea as to my aspirations, as to the place I desire to fill in life. I shall try to give him an opportunity to form a saner judgment."
"It will give me the utmost pleasure to accept it," the detective confessed, with ill-concealed acerbity.
Jocelyn Thew sighed lightly. He had seated himself upon the arm of a neighbouring easy-chair and was resting his hand upon the head of a cane he was carrying.
"If our friend Brightman here has a fault," he said, "in the execution of his daily duties, it is that he brings to bear into his task a certain amount of prejudice, from which the mind of the ideal detector of crime should be free. Now you would scarcely believe it, Mr. Crawshay, I am sure, to judge from his amiable exterior, but Mr. Brightman is capable of very strong dislikes, of one of which, alas! I am the object. Now this is not as it should be. You see what might happen, supposing Mr. Brightman were engaged to watch a little coterie, or, in plainer parlance, a little gang of supposed misdemeanants. If by any possible stretch of his imagination he could connect me with them, I should be the one he would go for all the time, and although I perhaps carry my fair burden of those peccadilloes to which the law, rightly or wrongly, takes exception, still, in this particular instance I might be the innocent one, and in Mr. Brightman's too great eagerness to fasten evil things upon me, the real culprit might escape.—Thank you, Mr. Crawshay," he added, accepting the cocktail which the waiter had presented. "Let us drink a little toast together. Shall we say 'Success to Mr. Brightman's latest enterprise, whatever it may be!'"
Crawshay glanced at his companion.
"I think we can humour our friend by drinking that toast, Brightman," he said.
"I shall drink it with great pleasure," the detective agreed.
They set down their empty glasses. Jocelyn Thew rose regretfully to his feet.
"I fear," he said, "that I must tear myself away. We shall meet again, I trust. And, Mr. Brightman, a word with you. If you are in town for a holiday, if you have no business to worry you just at present, why not practise on me for a time? Watch me. Find out the daily incidents of my life. See what company I keep, where I spend my spare time—you know—and all the rest of it. I can assure you that although I am not the great criminal you fancy me, I am a most interesting person to study. Take my advice, Mr. Brightman. Keep your eye upon me."
They watched him on the way to the door—a little languid but exceedingly pleasant to look upon, exceedingly distinguished and prepossessing. A look of half unwilling admiration crept into Brightman's face.
"Whatever that man really may be," he declared, "he is a great artist."
The swing door leading from the room into the cafe was pushed open, and a woman entered. She stood for a moment looking around until her eyes fell upon Jocelyn Thew. Crawshay suddenly gripped the detective's arm.
"Is there anything for us in this, my friend?" he whispered. "Watch Jocelyn Thew's face!"
For a few seconds Jocelyn Thew was certainly taken aback. His little start, his look of blank astonishment, were coupled with a certain loss of poise which Crawshay had been quick to note. But, after all, the interlude was brief enough.
"Exactly what does this mean, Nora?" he demanded.
Her vivid brown eyes were fastened upon his face, eager to understand his attitude, a little defiant, a little appealing. There was nothing to be gathered from his expression, however. After that first moment he was entirely himself—well-mannered, unemotional, cold.
"I came over on the Baltic," she explained, "I guessed I'd find you here. Fourteenth Street was getting a little sultry. The old man hopped it to San Francisco the day you left."
"Sit down," he invited.
They found places on a lounge and were served with cocktails. The girl sipped hers disapprovingly.
"Rum stuff, this," she declared. "I guess I'll have to get my shaker out."
"You are staying here, then?" he enquired.
"Why not?" she replied, with a faint note of truculence in her tone. "You know I'm not short of money, and I guessed it was where I should find you."
He raised his eyebrows.
"That is very nice and companionable of you," he said, "and naturally I shall be very glad to be of any assistance possible whilst you are over here, but I hope you will remember, Nora, that I did not encourage you to come."
"I'm wise enough about that," she admitted. "I never expected you to care two pins whether you ever saw me again or not, and I know quite well," she went on hastily, "that I haven't any right to follow you, or anything of that sort. But honestly, Mr. Thew, we were being watched down there, and New York wasn't exactly healthy."
"Yes," he assented, "no doubt you are right. They have awkward methods of cross-examination there, although I don't think they'd get much out of you, Nora."
"I'd no fancy to have them try," she admitted. "Besides, I've never had that trip to Europe that uncle and I were always talking about, and it seemed to me that if I wanted to see the old country whole, now or never was the time. You may all be a German colony over here by next year."
"I have no right or any desire," he told her quietly, "to interfere in any way with your plans, but I must warn you that just at present I am living in the utmost jeopardy. I have no friends to whom I can introduce you, nor any of my own time or attentions to offer. Unless you choose to exercise tact, I might find your presence here not only embarrassing but a positive hindrance to my plans."
"I guess I can lie close," she replied, looking at him through half-closed eyes. "Just how am I to size that up, though?"
He looked at her appraisingly, a little cruelly. The effect of her beautiful figure was almost ruined by the cheap and unbecoming clothes in which she was attired. Her hat, with its huge hatpins and ultra-fashionable height, was hideous. She exuded perfumes. Her silk stockings and suede shoes were the only reasonable things about her. The former she was displaying with some recklessness as she leaned back upon the settee.
"I once told you," he said calmly, "that there was no woman in the world for whom I felt the slightest affection."
"That is no longer the case."
Her eyes glittered.
"Who is she?"
"It is not necessary for you to know," he answered coldly. "She happens, however, to be concerned in the business which I have on hand. She has been of great assistance to me, and she may yet be the means of helping me to final success. I cannot afford to have her upset by any false impressions."
She looked at him almost wonderingly.
"If you're not the limit!" she exclaimed. "Nothing matters to you except to succeed. You tell me in one breath that you care for a woman for the first time in your life, and in the next you speak of using her as your tool!"
"You perhaps find that incomprehensible," he observed. "I do not blame you. At present, however, I have only one object in life, and that is to succeed in the business I have on hand. Whatever I may find it necessary to do to attain my ends, I shall do."
She had gone a little pale, and her white teeth were holding down her full under lip.
"Buy me another cocktail," she demanded.
He obeyed, and she drank it at a gulp.
"So you are not going to be nice to me?" she asked in a low tone.
"That depends upon what you call nice," he answered. "I am rather up against a blank wall. Even if I succeed, I remain in this country at very considerable personal danger. I am not sure that even for your sake, Nora, it is well for you to associate with me. Why not go home? You'll find some of your people still there—and an old sweetheart or two, very likely."
"It isn't a very warm welcome," she remarked, a little wistfully.
"You have taken me by surprise," he reminded her. "I had not the slightest idea of your coming."
"I know that," she sighed. "I suppose I ought not to have hoped for anything more. You've never been any different to me than to any of the others. You treat us all, men and women, just alike. You are gracious or cold, just according to how much we can help. I sometimes wonder, Mr. Jocelyn Thew, whether you have a heart at all."
For a single moment he looked at her kindly. His hand even patted hers. It was a curious revelation. He was a kindly ordinary human being.
"Ah, Nora," he said, "I am not quite so bad as that! But for many years I have had a great, driving impulse inside me, and at the back of it the most wonderful incentive in all the world. You know what that is, Nora—or perhaps you don't. To a woman it would be love, I suppose. To a man it is hate."
She drew a little further away from him, as though something which had flamed in his eyes for a moment had frightened her.
"Yes," she murmured, "you are like that."
Jocelyn Thew was himself again almost at once.
"Since we understand one another, Nora," he said, a little more kindly, "let me tell you that I am really very glad to see you, although you did give me rather a shock just now. I want you, if you will, to turn your head to the left. You see those two men—one seated in the easy-chair and the other on its arm?"
"I see them."
"They are the two men," he continued, "who are out to spoil my show if they can. You may see them again under very different circumstances."
"I shan't forget," she murmured. "The dark one looks like Brightman, the detective you were up against in that Fall River business—the man who believed that you were the High Priest of crime in New York."
"You have a good memory," he remarked. "It is the same man."
"And the other," she continued, with a sudden added interest in her tone—"Why, that's the Englishman who had me turned off from the hotel in Washington. Don't you remember, I went there for a month on trial as telephone operator, just before the election? You remember why. That Englishman was always dropping in. Used to bring me flowers now and then, but I felt certain from the first he was suspicious. He got me turned off just as things were getting interesting."
"Right again," Jocelyn Thew told her. "His name is Crawshay. He is the man who was sent out from Scotland Yard to the English Embassy. He crossed with me on the steamer. We had our first little bout there."
"The first trick fell to me," he acknowledged grimly.
"And so will the second and the third," she murmured. "He may be brainy, though he doesn't look it with that monacle and the peering way he has, but you're too clever for them all, Jocelyn Thew. You'll win."
He smiled very faintly.
"Well," he said, "this time I have to win or throw in my chips. Now if you like we'll have some lunch, and afterwards, if you'll forgive my taking the liberty of mentioning it, you had better buy some clothes."
"You don't like this black silk?" she asked wistfully. "I got it at a store up-town, and they told me these sort of skirts were all the rage over here."
"Well, you can see for yourself they aren't," he remarked, a little drily. "London is a queer place in many ways, especially about clothes. You're either right or you're wrong, and you've got to be right, Nora. We'll see about it presently."
They left the room together. Crawshay looked after them with interest.
"This affair," he told his companion, "grows hourly more and more interesting. You've been up against Jocelyn Thew, you tell me. Well, I am perfectly certain that that girl, whose coming gave him such a start, was a young woman I had turned away from an hotel in Washington. She was in the game then—more locally, perhaps, but still in the same game. I used to sit and talk to her in the afternoons sometimes. Finest brown eyes I ever saw in my life. I wonder if there is anything between her and Jocelyn Thew," he added, looking through the door with a faintly disapproving note in his tone,—a note which a woman would have recognised at once as jealousy.
"If you ask me, I should say no," the other answered. "I've kept tabs on Jocelyn Thew for a bit, and I've had his dossier. There's never been a woman's name mentioned in connection with him—don't seem as though he'd ever moved round or taken a meal with one all the time he was in New York. To tell you the truth, Mr. Crawshay, that's just what makes it so difficult to get your hands on a man you want. Nine times out of ten it's through the women we get home. The man who stands clear of them has an extra chance or two—Say, what time this evening?"
"Come to my rooms at 178, St. James's Street, at seven o'clock," Crawshay directed. "I've a little investigation to make before then."
Crawshay took a taxicab from the Savoy to Claridge's Hotel, sent up his card and was conducted to Katharine Beverley's sitting room on the first floor. She kept him waiting for a few moments, and he felt a sudden instinct of curiosity as he noticed the great pile of red roses which a maid had only just finished arranging. When she came in, he looked towards her in surprise. She appeared to have grown thinner, and there were dark rims under her eyes. Her words of greeting were colourless. She seemed almost afraid to meet his steady gaze.
"I ought to apologise for calling in the morning," he said, "but I ventured to do so, hoping that you would come out and have some lunch with me."
"I really don't feel well enough," she replied. "London is not agreeing with me at all."
"You are ill?" he exclaimed, with some concern.
She looked at the closed door through which the maid had issued.
"Not exactly ill. I have some anxieties," she answered. "It is kind of you to keep your promise and come. Please tell me exactly what happened? You know how interested I am."
"I have unfortunately nothing to report but failure," he replied. "Everything seems to have happened exactly as the doctor on the ship suggested. The detectives at Liverpool were quite smart. We were able to trace the car without much difficulty, and the body of your patient Phillips was found at his home, the other side of Chester. We obtained permission to make an examination, and we found that, just as we expected, fresh bandages had been put on only a few hours previously."
"And Doctor Gant?"
"He is at an hotel in London. He is watched night and day, but he seems to divide his time between genuine sight-seeing and trying to arrange for his passage home. Naturally, the whole of his effects have been searched, but without the slightest result."
"And—and Mr. Jocelyn Thew?"
"His business in Liverpool seems to have detained him a very short time. He is staying now at the Savoy Hotel. Needless to say, his effects too have been thoroughly searched, without result."
"You know that he sent me these?" she asked, glancing towards the roses.
"I saw him buying them."
Her fingers had strayed over one of the blossoms, and he noticed that while they talked she was convulsively crushing it into pulp.
"Were these detectives from Liverpool," she asked, "able to keep any watch upon Doctor Gant and Mr. Jocelyn Thew after—Chester?"
"To some extent. There is no doubt that Jocelyn Thew spent the first night in Liverpool. After that he travelled to London and took up his residence at the Savoy. Here Doctor Gant, who had travelled up from Chester, called upon him, late in the afternoon of the day of his arrival. They spent some time together, and subsequently the doctor took a room at the Regent Palace Hotel. The two men dined together at the Savoy grill, and took a box at the Alhambra music-hall, where they spent the evening. They appear to have returned to Jocelyn Thew's rooms, had a whisky and soda each and separated. There is no record of their having spoken to any other person or visited any other place."
"And their rooms have been searched?"
"By the most skilled men we have."
She pulled another of the roses to pieces.
"So it comes to this," she said. "All these documents, of whose existence both you and the American police knew, have been brought from America to England, and even now you cannot locate them."
"At present we cannot," he confessed drily, "but I am not prepared to admit for a single moment that they are ever likely to reach their destination."
"Jocelyn Thew is very clever," she reminded him calmly.
"I am tired of being told so," he replied, with a touch of irritation in his tone.
"You probably need your luncheon! If you care to come downstairs with me," she invited, "we can finish our conversation."
"I shall be only too pleased."
Katharine Beverley's table was in a quiet corner, and she sat with her back to the window, but even under such circumstances the change in her during the last few days was noticeable. There was a frightened light in her eyes, her cheeks were entirely colourless, her hands seemed almost transparent. Such a change in so short a time seemed almost incredible. Crawshay found himself unable to ignore it.
"I am very sorry to see you looking so unwell," he observed sympathetically. "I am afraid the shock of your voyage across the Atlantic has been too much for you."
"I am terribly disturbed," she confessed. "I am disappointed, too, in Mr. Jocelyn Thew. One hates to be made use of so flagrantly."
"You really knew nothing, then, until those things were discovered in your stateroom?"
"That question," she replied, "I am not going to answer."
"But the main part of the plot?" he persisted, "the bandages?"
"Doctor Gant never allowed me to touch them. That is what I found so inexplicable,—what first set me wondering."
"The whole scheme was very cleverly thought out," Crawshay pronounced, "but if you will forgive my repeating a previous speculation, Miss Beverley, the greatest mystery about it all, to me, is how you, Miss Katharine Beverley, whose name and reputation in New York stands so high, were induced to leave your work, your social engagements and your home, at a time like this, when your country really has claims upon you, to act as ordinary sick nurse to a New York clerk of humble means who turns out to have been nothing but the tool of Jocelyn Thew."
"I am still unable to explain that," she told him.
He realised the state of tension in which she was and suddenly abandoned the whole subject. He spoke of the theatres, asked of her friends in town, discussed the news of the day, and made no further allusion of any sort to the mystery which surrounded them. It was not until after they had been served with their coffee in the lounge that he reverted to more serious matters.
"Miss Beverley," he said, "for your own sake I am exceedingly unwilling to leave you like this. I may seem to you to be an inquisitor, but believe me I am a friendly one. I cannot see that you have anything to lose in being frank with me. I wish to help you. I wish to relieve the anxiety from which I know that you are suffering. Give me your confidence."
"You ask a very difficult thing," she sighed.
"Difficult but not impossible," he insisted. "I can quite understand that your discovery of the fact that you had been made use of to assist in the bringing to England of treasonable documents is of itself likely to be a severe shock to you, but, if you will permit me to say so, it is not sufficient to account for your present state of nerves."
"You don't know all that is happening," she replied, in some agitation. "There is a very astute lady detective who has a room near mine, and a man who shadows me every time I come in or go out. I am expecting every moment that the manager will ask me to leave the hotel."
"That is all very annoying, of course," he acknowledged sympathetically, "and yet I believe that at the back of your head there is still something else troubling you."
"You are very observant," she murmured.
"In your case," he replied, "close observation is scarcely necessary. Why, it is only four days since we left the steamer, and you look simply the wreck of yourself."
"A great deal has happened since then," she confessed.
He seized upon the admission.
"You see, I was right.—There is something else! Miss Beverley, I am your friend. You must confide in me."
"It would be useless," she assured him sadly.
"You cannot be sure of that," he insisted. "If this espionage gets on your nerves, I believe that I have influence enough to have it removed, provided that you will let me bring a friend of mine to see you here and ask you a few questions."
She shook her head.
"It is not the espionage alone," she declared. "I am confronted with something altogether different, something about which I cannot speak."
"Is this man Jocelyn Thew connected with it in any way?" he demanded.
"Why should you ask that question?"
"Because it is perfectly clear," he continued, "that Jocelyn Thew exercises some sort of unholy influence over you, an influence, I may add, which it is my intention to destroy."
She smiled bitterly.
"If you can destroy anything that Jocelyn Thew means to keep alive," she began—
"Oh, please don't believe that Jocelyn Thew is infallible," he interrupted. "I have had a long experience of diplomatists and plotters and even criminals, and I can assure you that no man breathing is possessed of more than ordinary human powers. Jocelyn Thew has brought it off against us this time, but then, you see, one must lose a trick now and then. It is the next step which counts."
"Oh, the next step will be all right!" she replied, with a hard little laugh. "He has brought his spoils to England, although there must have been twenty or thirty detectives on board, and you won't be able to stop his disposing of them exactly as he likes."
"I don't agree with you," he assured her confidently. "That, however, is not what I want to talk about. You are in a false position. In the struggle which is going on now, your heart and soul should be with us and against Jocelyn Thew."
Her eyes were lit with a momentary terror.
"You don't suppose for a moment," she said, "that my sympathies are not with my own country and our joint cause?"
"I don't," he replied. "On the other hand, your actions should follow upon your sympathies. There is something sinister in your present state. I want you to tell me just what the terror is that is sitting in your heart, that has changed you like this. Jocelyn Thew has some hold upon you. If so, you need a man to stand by your side. Can't you treat me as a friend?"
She softened at his words. For a moment she sat quite silent.
"I can only repeat to you what I told you once before," she said. "If you are picturing Jocelyn Thew to yourself as a blackmailer, or anything of that sort, you are wrong. I am under the very deepest obligations to him."
"But surely," he protested, "you have paid your debt, whatever it was?"
"He admits it."
"And yet the terror remains?"
"It remains," she repeated sadly.
Crawshay meditated for a moment.
"Look here, Miss Beverley," he said, "I have a friend who is chief in this country of a department which I will not name. Will you dine with me to-night and let me invite him to meet you?"
She shook her head.
"It is a very kind thought," she declared, "but I am engaged. Mr. Jocelyn Thew is dining here."
Crawshay's face for a moment was very black indeed. He rose slowly to his feet.
"I know that you mean to be kind," she continued, "and I fear that I must seem very ungrateful. Believe me, I am not. I am simply faced with one of those terrible problems which must be solved, and yet which admit of no help from any living person."
Crawshay's attitude had grown perceptibly stiffer.
"I am very sorry indeed, Miss Beverley," he said, "that you cannot give me your confidence. I am very sorry for my own sake, and I am sorry for yours."
"Is that a threat?" she asked.
"You know the old proverb," he answered, as he bowed over her fingers. "'Those who are not on my side are against me.'"
"You are going to treat me as an enemy?"
"Until you prove yourself to be a friend."
At a quarter to eight that evening, a young man who had made fitful appearances in the lounge of Claridge's Restaurant during the last half-hour went to the telephone and rang up a certain West End number.
"Are these Mr. Crawshay's rooms?" he asked.
"Mr. Crawshay speaking," was the reply.
Crawshay turned away from the telephone and handed the receiver to the detective.
"What news, Henshaw?" the latter enquired.
"Miss Beverley dines at her usual table, sir, at eight o'clock," was the reply. "The table is set for three."
"For three?" Brightman exclaimed.
"For three?" Crawshay echoed, turning from the sideboard, where he had been in the act of mixing some cocktails.
"You are quite sure the third place isn't a mistake?" Brightman asked.
"Quite sure, sir," was the prompt reply. "I am acquainted with one of the head waiters here, and I understand that two gentlemen are expected."
"Nothing, sir. Miss Beverley sent away two parcels this afternoon, which were searched downstairs. They were quite unimportant."
"I shall expect to hear from you again," Brightman directed, "within half an hour. If the third person is a stranger, try and find out his name."
"I'll manage that all right, Mr. Brightman. The young lady has just come down. I'll be getting back into the lounge."
Brightman turned around to Crawshay, who was in the act of shaking the cocktails.
"A third party," he observed.
"Interesting," Crawshay declared, "very interesting! Perhaps the intermediary. It might possibly be Doctor Gant, though."
The detective shook his head.
"Three quarters of an hour ago," he said, "Doctor Gant went into Gatti's for a chop. He was quite alone and in morning clothes."
Crawshay poured the amber-coloured liquid which he had been shaking into a frosted glass, handed it to his companion and filled one for himself.
"Here's hell to Jocelyn Thew, anyway!" he exclaimed, with a note of real feeling in his tone.
"If I thought," Brightman declared, "that drinking that toast would bring him any nearer to it, I should become a confirmed drunkard. As it is, sir—my congratulations! A very excellent mixture!"
He set down his glass empty and Crawshay turned away to light a cigarette.
"No," he decided, "I don't think that it would be Doctor Gant. Jocelyn Thew has finished with him all right. He did his job well and faithfully, but he was only a hired tool. Speculation, however, is useless. We must wait for Henshaw's news. Perhaps this third guest, whoever he may be, may give us a clue as to Jocelyn Thew's influence over Miss Beverley."
The telephone rang a few minutes later. Crawshay this time took up the receiver, and Brightman the spare one which hung by the side. It was Henshaw speaking.
"Miss Beverley has just gone in to dinner," he announced. "She is accompanied by Mr. Jocelyn Thew and a young officer in the uniform of a Flight Commander."
"What is his name?" Crawshay asked.
"I have had no opportunity of finding out yet," was the reply. "I believe that he is staying in the hotel, and he seems to be on very intimate terms with Miss Beverley."
"On no account lose sight of the party," Crawshay directed, "and try and find out the young soldier's name. Wasn't he introduced to Jocelyn Thew?"
"Not a bit of it," was the prompt reply. "They shook hands very much like old friends."
"Go back and watch," Crawshay directed. "I must know his name. The sooner you can find out, the better. I want to get away within a few minutes, if I can."
They left the instrument. Crawshay, who seemed a little nervous, took a cigarette from an open box which he passed across to his companion, and strolled up and down the room for a few moments with his hands in his pockets.
"A young officer," he remarked, "presumably English, known to both Miss Beverley and Jocelyn Thew, seems rather a puzzle. He may be the connecting link. I hope to goodness your man won't be long, Brightman."
"Are you in a hurry?" the detective asked.
"I want to get round to the Savoy," he announced.
Brightman smiled slightly.
"Were you thinking about the young lady, sir?" he asked.
"I thought it might be useful to renew my acquaintance with her," Crawshay explained, a little laboriously. "I shouldn't think she'd go out alone."
"She has probably made some friends by this time," Brightman observed.
Crawshay dropped his eyeglass and polished it.
"From my experience of the young lady," he said, a little stiffly, "I should think it improbable. I happened to meet her twice in New York, and she struck me as being an extraordinarily well-behaved and, in her natural way, very attractive person."
"Do you suppose that she came to Europe after Jocelyn Thew?" Brightman asked.
"Oh, damn Jocelyn Thew!" Crawshay replied. "I should think it most unlikely. You and I have both seen the man's dossier. Most cold-blooded person alive."
The telephone broke in once more upon their conversation. Crawshay took up the receiver. It was Henshaw speaking.
"I made a mistake about the uniform, sir," he announced. "The young man is in the Canadian Flying Corps and he is the young lady's brother. He is called Captain Beverley."
"Her brother!" Crawshay exclaimed.
"The connecting link!" Brightman murmured.
Meanwhile, the little dinner at Claridge's, of which sketchy tidings were being conveyed to the two occupants of Crawshay's flat by Henshaw, was settling down, so far as the two men were concerned, into a cheery enough meal. There had been a little strangeness at first, but Jocelyn Thew's hearty welcome of his young friend, and his genuine pleasure at seeing him, had quickly broken the ice. Katharine, however, although she had a shade more colour than earlier in the day, had sometimes the air of a Banquo at the feast. She listened almost feverishly to Jocelyn Thew, whenever he seemed inclined to turn the conversation into a certain channel, and she watched her brother a little anxiously as the waiter filled up his glass, unchecked, every few minutes. The likeness between the two was apparent enough, although marked by certain differences. Beverley was tall, of exceedingly powerful build, and with a fresh, strong face which would have been remarkably attractive but for the weak mouth and the slightly puffy cheeks.
"I can't conceive anything more fortunate than this meeting," Jocelyn Thew declared, as he inspected the cigars which had been brought round to him, with the air of a connoisseur. "Quite an extraordinary coincidence, too, that you should turn up in London on five days' leave, the very day that your sister arrives from the States. Tell me, are you right up at the front?"
"Right beyond it, most days," was the cheerful reply. "We spend most of our time over the German lines."
"Lucky fellow!" Jocelyn Thew sighed. "You are getting now what a few years ago one had to defy the law for—real, thrilling sensations. It's a life for men, yours."
The young man's hand shook a little as he raised his glass. He looked towards Jocelyn Thew almost appealingly.
"It's a splendid life," he assented, talking rapidly and with the air of one who wishes to stifle conversation. "I had hard work to get my wings, but I guess I'm all right now. The engine part of it never gave me any trouble, but I suffered from a kind of sickness the first few times I went up. It's a gorgeous sensation, flying. The worst of it is we never know when those cunning Germans aren't coming out with something fresh. They stung us up last week with a dozen planes of an entirely new pattern, two hundred and fifty horse-power engines on a small frame. Gee, they gave some of our elderly machines a touching up, I can tell you!"
"So you fly over the German lines most days, eh?" Jocelyn Thew ruminated.
"We dropped a few thousand copies of the President's speech last Monday," the young man told them. "That ought to give them something to think about. They only know just what they are told. The last batch of prisoners that were brought in firmly believed that one of their armies had landed in England and that London was on the point of falling."
"All war," Jocelyn Thew said didactically, "is carried on under a cloud of misconception."
The young man stretched himself out. He had dined well and his courage was returning. He asked a question which up till then he had felt inclined to shirk.
"What licks me," he declared suddenly, "is finding you two over here. What ever brought you across, Katharine?"
There was a brief silence. Katharine seemed uncertain how to answer. It was Jocelyn Thew who took up the challenge.
"A little over a fortnight ago," he explained, "I called upon your sister in New York. I begged her to perform a certain service for me. She consented. The execution of that service brought her across from New York on board the City of Boston."
"But have you two been seeing anything of one another, then? You never mentioned Thew in any of your letters, Katharine?"
"Your sister and I have not met since a certain memorable occasion," Jocelyn Thew replied.
The young man shivered and drained his glass.
"What was this service?" he enquired.
"Your sister played sick nurse upon the steamer to a person in whom I was interested, and who was operated upon in her hospital," Jocelyn Thew explained. "He was an Englishman, and very anxious to reach his own country before he died."
"I can't quite catch on to it," Beverley admitted.
Jocelyn Thew glanced carelessly around. His manner was the reverse of suspicious, but he only resumed his speech when he was sure that not even a waiter was within hearing.
"It happened to form part of an important plan of mine," he said, "that a man who was dangerously ill should be brought over to England without raising any suspicion as to his bona fides. I made use of your sister's name and social position to ensure this. There has been, as I think you have often acknowledged, Beverley, a debt owing from you to me. Half of that debt your sister has paid."
"You haven't been getting Katharine mixed up in any crooked business?" her brother demanded excitedly.
"Your sister ran no risk whatever," Jocelyn Thew assured him. "She performed her share of the bargain excellently. It is just possible," he continued, with a glint of fire in his eyes and a peculiar, cold emphasis creeping into his words, "that it may fall to your lot to wipe out the remainder of the debt."
Beverley moved in his chair uneasily.
"You will remember," he said, "that things have changed. I am not a free agent now. I entered upon this fighting business as an adventure, but, my God, Thew, it's got into my blood! I've seen things, felt things. I don't want anything to come between me and the glorious life I live day by day."
Jocelyn Thew nodded approvingly.
"That's the proper spirit, Beverley," he declared. "I always knew you had pluck. Quite the proper spirit! Your sister showed the same courage when the necessity came."
"Oh, don't bring me into this, please!" she interrupted.
"You seem to have been brought into it," her brother observed grimly, "and I'm not sure that I am satisfied. I can pay my own debts."
There was a note of rising anger in his tone. Katharine laid her fingers upon his hand.
"Don't imagine things, please, Dick," she begged. "It is my own foolishness if I am disturbed. I really had nothing to do. Mr. Thew has been most considerate."
"In any case," Jocelyn Thew went on, "I think that the matter had better be discussed another time, when we are alone. We might have to make reference to things which are best not mentioned in a public place."
For a moment the young man's eyes challenged his. Then they fell. He shivered a little.
"Why ever speak of them?" he demanded.
"Ah, well, we'll see," Jocelyn Thew observed. "Now what about an hour or two at a music-hall? I have a box at the Alhambra."
Katharine rose at once to her feet. They all made their way into the lounge. Whilst they waited for her to fetch her cloak, Beverley swung round to his companion.
"Look here," he said, "for myself it doesn't matter—you know that—but what game are you playing? I don't know much about your life, of course, before those few days, but on your own showing you were out for big things. Are you known here? Is it anything—anything against the law, this business you're on? I don't care for myself—you know that. It's Katharine I'm thinking of."
Jocelyn Thew knocked the ash from his cigar. He smiled deprecatingly at his companion. Certainly there was no man in that very fashionable restaurant who looked less like a criminal.
"My dear Beverley," he expostulated, "you must remember that I am an exceedingly clever person. I am suspected of any number of misdemeanours. I will not say that there are not one or two of which I have not been guilty, but I have never left behind me any proof. I dare say the English police over here look on me sometimes just as hungrily as the New York ones. They feel in their hearts that I am an adventurer. They feel that I have been connected with some curious enterprises, both in the States and various other countries of the globe. They know very well that where there has been fighting and loot and danger, I have generally followed under my own flag. They know all this, but they can prove nothing against me. They can only watch me, and that they do wherever I am. They are watching me now, every hour of the day."
"It isn't," the young man commenced, with a sudden break in his tone—
Jocelyn shook his head.
"No, my young friend," he said, "the curtain fell upon that little episode. I doubt whether there is even a police record of it. It isn't the lives of individuals I am juggling with to-day. It's the life of a nation."
"Are you a spy?" Beverley asked him hoarsely.
"Your sister," Jocelyn Thew pointed out, "is waiting for us."
Crawshay, having the good fortune to find, as he issued from his rooms, a taxicab whose driver's ideas of speed were in accordance with his own impatience, managed to reach the Savoy at a few minutes before eight. He entered the hotel by the Court entrance. An insignificant-looking young man with a fair moustache and watery eyes touched him on the shoulder as he passed through the Court lobby. Crawshay glanced lazily around and assured himself that they were unobserved.
"Anything fresh?" he asked laconically.
"Nothing. We have searched Miss Sharey's rooms thoroughly, and two of our men have been over Thew's apartments again."
"Miss Sharey up-stairs?"
The young man shook his head.
"Hasn't been up for some hours," he reported.
Crawshay nodded and strolled on. He left his coat and hat in charge of the attendant, and entered the grill room. Here, however, he met with disappointment. The place was crowded but his search was methodical. There was no sign there of Nora Sharey. He climbed the few stairs and entered the smoking room. Seated in an armchair, reading a novel, he discovered the young lady of whom he was in search.
He crossed the room at a slow saunter, as though on his way to the bar, and paused before the girl's chair. She laid down her book and looked up at him. Her smile at once assured him of a welcome.
"I am glad that I am not altogether forgotten, Miss Sharey," he said, holding out his hand which she promptly accepted. "I suppose it still is Miss Sharey, is it? I hope so."
"I guess the name's all right," she replied. "Glad to see you don't bear any ill-will against me, Mr. Crawshay. You Englishmen sometimes get so peevish when things don't go quite your way, and you weren't saying nice things to me last time we met."
Crawshay smiled and glanced at the seat by her side. She made room for him, and he subsided into the vacant space with a little sigh of content.
"A man's profession," he confided, "sometimes makes large and repugnant demands upon him."
"If that means you are sorry you were rude to me last time we met down in Fourteenth Street," she said, "I guess I may as well accept your apology. You were a trifle disappointed then, weren't you?"
"We acted," Crawshay explained, with studied laboriousness,—"my friends and I acted, that is to say—upon inconclusive information. America at that time, you see, was a neutral Power, and the facilities granted us by the New York police were limited in their character. My department was thoroughly convinced that the—er—restaurant of which your father was the proprietor was something more than the ordinary meeting place of that section of your country-people who carried their enmity towards my country to an unreasonable extent."
She looked at him admiringly.
"Say, you know how to talk!" she observed. "What about getting an innocent girl turned out of a job at Washington, though?"
Crawshay stroked his long chin reflectively.
"You don't suppose," he began—
"Oh, don't yarn!" she interrupted. "I'm not squealing. You knew very well that I'd no need to take a post as telephone operator, and you did your duty when you got me turned off. It was very clever of you," she went on, "to tumble to me."
Crawshay accepted the compliment with a smile.
"If you will permit me to say so, Miss Sharey," he declared, "you are what we call in this country a good sportsman."
"Oh, I can keep on the tracks all right," she assented. "I guess I am a little easier to deal with, for instance, than your friend Mr. Jocelyn Thew."
Crawshay frowned. His expression became gloomier.
"I am bound to confess, Miss Sharey," he sighed, "that your friend Mr. Jocelyn Thew has been the disappointment of my life."
"Some brains, eh?"
"He has brains, courage and luck," Crawshay pronounced. "Against these three things it is very hard work to bring off—shall I say a coup?"
"The man who gets the better of Jocelyn Thew," she declared, with a little laugh, "deserves all the nuts. He is a sure winner every time. You're up against him now, aren't you?"
"More or less," Crawshay confessed. "I crossed on the steamer with him."
"I bet that didn't do you much good!"
"I lost the first game," Crawshay confessed candidly. "I see that you know all about it."
"No need to put me wiser than I am," the girl observed carelessly. "Jocelyn Thew's no talker."
"Not unless it serves his purpose. It is astonishing," Crawshay went on reflectively, "how the science of detection has changed during the last ten years. When I was an apprentice at it—and though you may not think it. Miss Sharey, I am a professional, not an amateur, although I am generally employed on Government business—secrecy was our watchword. We hid in corners, we were stealthy, we always posed as being something we weren't. We should have denied emphatically having the slightest interest in the person under surveillance. In these days, however, everything is changed. We play the game with the cards upon the table—all except the last two or three, perhaps—and curiously enough, I am not at all sure that it doesn't add finesse to the game."
Her eyes flashed appreciatively.
"You're dead right," she acknowledged. "Take us two, for instance. You know very well that Jocelyn Thew is a pal of mine. You know very well that I shall see him within the next twenty-four hours. You know very well that you're out to hunt him to the death, and you know that I know it. Every question you ask me has a purpose, yet we talk here just as chance acquaintances might—I, a girl whom you rather like the look of—you do like the look of me, don't you, Mr. Crawshay?"
Crawshay had no need to be subtle. His eyes and tone betrayed his admiration.
"I have thoroughly disliked you ever since you were too clever for me in New York," he confessed, "and I have been in love with you all the time."
"And you," she continued, with a little gleam of appreciation in her eyes, "are a very pleasant-looking, smart, agreeable Englishman, who looks as though he knew almost enough to ask a poor girl out to dinner."
Crawshay glanced at his wrist watch.
"It is you who have the science of detection," he declared. "You have read my thoughts. Do you wish to change your clothes first, or shall we turn in at a grill room?"
She rose promptly to her feet.
"I'm all for the glad rags," she insisted. "I bought a heap of clothes in Bond Street this afternoon, and I don't know how many chances I shall have of wearing them. I am a quick dresser, and I shan't keep you more than a quarter of an hour. But just one moment first."
Crawshay stood attentively by her side.
"I am at your service," he murmured.
"It's all in the game," she went on, "for you to take me out to dinner, of course, but I guess I needn't tell you that there's nothing doing in the information way. You've fixed it up in your mind, I dare say, that I am mad with Jocelyn Thew. I may be or I may not, but that doesn't make me any the more likely to come in on your side of the game."
Mr. Crawshay's gesture was entirely convincing.
"My dear Miss Sharey," he said softly, "I am going to take a holiday. Business is one thing and pleasure is another. For this evening I am going to put business out of my mind. The sentiment at which I hinted a few moments ago, has, I can assure you, a very real existence."
"Hinted?" she laughed. "Guess there wasn't much hint about it. You said you were in love with me."
"I am," Crawshay sighed.
Her eyes danced joyously.
"You shall tell me all about it over dinner," she declared. "I've got a peach of a black gown—you won't mind if I am twenty minutes?"
"I shall mind every moment that you are away," Crawshay replied, "but I can pass the time. I will telephone and have a cocktail."
She leaned towards him.
"I can guess whom you are going to telephone to."
"Perhaps—but not what I am going to say."
"You are going to telephone to that chap with the dark moustache—Brightman, isn't it? I can hear you on the wire. 'Say, boys,' you'll begin, 'I'm on to a good thing! Everything's looking lovely. I'm taking little Nora Sharey, of Fourteenth Street, out to dine—girl who came over to Europe after Jocelyn Thew, you know. Good business, eh?'"
Crawshay laughed tolerantly. The girl's humour pleased him.
"You are wrong," he declared. "If I told them that, they'd expect something from me which I know I shan't get. You are right about the person, though. I am going to telephone to Brightman."
"What are you going to say?" she challenged him.
"I am just going to tell him," Crawshay confided, "that Jocelyn Thew is dining with Miss Beverley and her brother, more red roses and a corner table in the restaurant, and—"
"Well, what else?"
"Perhaps," he said, "if I went on I might put just one card too many on the table, eh?"
"We'll let it go at that, then," she decided. "After all, you know, I am not coming exactly like a lamb to the slaughter. There are a few things you'd like to get to know from me about Jocelyn Thew, but there are also a few things I should like to worm out of you. We'll see which wins. And, Mr. Crawshay."
"Miss Sharey?" he murmured, bending down to her as he held the door open.
"I don't mind confessing that it depends a great deal upon what brand of champagne you fancy."
"Mum cordon rouge?" he suggested.
She made a little grimace as she turned away.
"I am rather beginning to fancy your chance," she declared.
Crawshay, about half an hour later, piloted his companion to the table which he had engaged in the restaurant with all the savoir faire of a redoubtable man about town. She was, in her way, an exceedingly striking figure in a black satin gown on which was enscrolled one immense cluster of flowers. Her neck and arms, very fully visible, were irreproachable. Her blue-black hair, simply arranged but magnificent, triumphed over the fashions of the coiffeur. The transition from Fourteenth Street to her present surroundings seemed to have been accomplished without the slightest hitch. She leaned forward to smell the great cluster of white roses which he had ordered in from the adjoining florist's.
"The one flower I love," she sighed. "I always fall for white roses."
Crawshay's eyes twinkled as he took his place.
"Do you remember your English history?" he asked. "This is perhaps destined to become a battle of red and white roses—red roses at Claridge's and white roses here."
"Which won—in history?" she asked indifferently.
"That I won't tell you," he said, "in case you should be superstitious. At the same time, I am bound to confess that if we could both of us hear exactly what Jocelyn Thew is saying to-night across those red roses, I think perhaps that I should back the House of York."
"So that's the stunt, is it?" she remarked coolly. "You want to make me jealous of Katharine Beverley?"
"The cleverest and hardest men in the world," Crawshay observed, "generally meet with their Waterloo at the hands of your sex. So far as I am concerned, I am myself in distress. I am jealous of Jocelyn Thew."
"You're bearing up!"
"I am bearing up," Crawshay rejoined, "because I am hoping that with kindness and consideration, and with opportunity to prove to you what a domestic and faithful person I am, you will perceive that of the two men I am the more worthy."
"Think something of yourself, don't you?" she observed.
"I have cultivated this confidence," he told her. "In my younger days I was over-diffident."
"Guess you're older than I thought you, then."
"I am thirty-seven years old," he declared, "and I was well brought up."
"Jocelyn Thew," she said reflectively, "is forty."
"I did not bring you here," he declared, "to discuss the age of my unworthy rival. I brought you to tell me whether you consider that this Lobster Americaine reminds you at all of Delmonico's, and to prove to you that we can, if we put our minds to it and speak plain and simple words to the sommelier, serve our champagne as iced even as you like it."